Midsummer with the Ancestors: Wakasa Town
The town of Wakasa-cho lies on the coast of Fukui Prefecture, looking out on the Sea of Japan. In the old days, the town thrived as a key hub on a highway connecting the region with Kyoto. Each year in August, a traditional dance known as Rokusai Nenbutsu is performed by people in this town. The ceremony, which dates back over 700 years, is held to mark the midsummer Obon holiday, when the ancestors are believed to return to their former homes. On this episode of Journeys in Japan, rakugo artist Cyril Coppini meets the local people who are keeping alive this tradition, to ensure that generations to come will continue to welcome the spirits of their forebears.

Wakasa Rokusai Nenbutsu

Rokusai Nenbutsu is a dance with Buddhist chanting that is done in many parts of Japan. In Wakasa-cho, the dancing is accompanied by gongs and drums. This is thought to be the form of the dance closest to the way it was originally performed when it was first introduced around 700 years ago.

Mukae Mandai

This traditional ceremony is held to guide the spirits of the ancestors back to their hometown, welcoming them with torches and Buddhist nenbutsu chanting.

Kumagawa-juku

Kumagawa-juku flourished as a post town on the ancient Mackerel Highway, which was used to transport seafood products to the ancient capital, Kyoto. Since 1996, the town has been designated as an Important Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings.

Access

To reach Wakasa-cho from Tokyo, it takes about two hours to Kyoto Prefecture by Shinkansen bullet train. From there, it's another two hours by local train to Kaminaka Station.